Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 7/Head-gear in the south




English females have little notion of the artistic effect of wearing, as many of the better class of the sex do in Lombardy, those very becoming black veils, which cover great part of the head, neck, and shoulders. They would also be astonished for awhile at meeting, in the streets of Genoa, with something very different from any covering for the head used hereabouts in the muslin Pezzotto, which is pinned into the hair of the ladies, and floats away from it, and in the gaudy Mezzaro scarf which is worn by their poorer neighbours. There is something to look at in the showy handkerchiefs of the Livornese, and something to admire in the pretty white shawl which adorns, while partially concealing, the locks of the fair ones of Bologna. The white folded square, which painters commonly place upon the heads of their plebeian figures belonging to Rome, will probably disappoint the observer, so far as the place itself is concerned. For it is not often worn by any but those wrinkled dames who used to play on the banks of the Tiber some time last century, and are now too conservative to submit to any new-fangled notion about showing the world the exact state or quantity of their residue of capillary attraction. Where we can suppose our countrywomen a little envious, is in the neighbourhood of Florence, itself the great centre of the straw-plait manufacture, where the damsels come forth to captivate the hearts of certain open-mouthed swains, in their large flapping hats, so limp as to take all sorts of shapes with the passing breeze, and yet so well made as to return forthwith to their normal condition. We well remember the effect of them, when we were lounging in the dull broad street of Fiesole, a place more noted for its Pelasgic and other historical remains than for any modern attractions. It was a fête day, the Duomo was gaudily furnished for the occasion, and the bells struck up a merry invitation to the service, which all the younger part of the population seemed duly to accept. The youths, who came early, showed anything but an anxiety to secure good places inside; in fact, loitered about to see the successive batches of damsels well in first, with or without any idea of profiting by that sort of introduction to the solemnities of the evening. We watched them likewise; and seeing, as a novelty to us, that they took off the flapping hats at the entrance of the Duomo, we were tempted to look in and see what they did further with them. We soon found that, although white veils have the chief place in old ecclesiastical costumes, the rule was for each female to put on a black one. And since, by another rule, they all immediately fell on their knees, the process of adjusting the veils, had to be gone through in that position. The unfolding, pulling, squaring, &c., of the covering, the constant fidgeting of the wearer, and her evident critical anxiety about the success of others in gracefulness, all on the hard marble floor, seemed likely, in our view, to increase the difficulties of devotion under the circumstances; but then we had no licence to judge.